Seniors show way, dunk Providence
It’s not far fetched for a coach to start the program’s seniors the night they’ll play their final game on the home hardwood.
First-year coach Kevin Jones clapped with fans as all five seniors for the Cougars went through player introductions. There was some concern putting out a line-up of all seniors. Why? Only one of the five has the position of ‘G’ in the program.
The move paid off in a big way. Literally one of the bigger line-ups North Harrison could use, it kick-started a more than memorable start to senior night Friday against visiting Providence.
Shawn Bishop, the lone guard, converted a 3-point play off the bat off an offensive board. Sharing the rock, Austin Giles slipped a look to Brad Nowak for a field goal while, on the next possession, Gage Arnold did the same to Nowak.
The senior group helped vault North Harrison to a 7-2 lead. Once junior Alex Flock entered the game, the Cougars’ pace of spirited play continued as Flock scored eight straight points, launching North Harrison ahead 15-2. The lead was more than enough for North Harrison to topple Providence, 69-56.
‘We had Shawn playing the one, and Jack (Phelps) playing the two,’ North Harrison coach Kevin Jones said of the line-up. ‘They normally play the three and the four … We tried to keep it simple offensively. We told them to rebound the ball and defend. We’d see how long we’d let them go. I think we got ahead 11-2 when they came out. The game was won right there.’
Nowak ‘ joined by fellow seniors Jack Phelps, Giles, Arnold and Bishop to start the contest ‘ ended the game with a enormous grin.
The normally reserved Nowak, on the floor with the senior group for the final time, had the perfect send-off.
Taking off on a break in the closing moments of the fourth quarter, Phelps split a pair of Providence defenders with a bounce pass to the block where Nowak waited. Hunching down to explode toward the goal, Nowak sent down a rim-rattling dunk.
The reaction of the Cougars’ faithful and bench went into a frenzy, echoing loud cheers off the rafters.
‘That was something we’ve seen in practice a million times,’ Jones said of Nowak’s slam. ‘He’s had one or two opportunities this year to get it punched in and, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen.’
Jones, however, was hoping the moment would happen in a game.
‘We talked about it on the bench, about getting in and pressuring it up and seeing if we could get him one. He got his chance and he made sure he sent it home. He played great,’ Jones said.
The win over Providence, as a whole, is something Jones was proud of, especially since the Cougars hadn’t beat the Pioneers since the 2003-04 season. The victory broke a 10-game losing streak to the parochial school located in Clarksville.
‘We’ve had all kinds of injuries, and adversity has struck,’ Jones said. ‘If we can come together this week and next week and have a chance to do some damage in the sectional, that’s all we can ask for … ‘
An improbable shot by Providence’s Juston Betz, a one-handed 3-pointer before the end of the first quarter, brought Providence within nine points, 16-7.
Momentum, however, didn’t carry over to the next stanza. Jake Book took a pass from Flock after a steal for a lay-in. Returning the assist, Book later found Flock for a triple.
On top of his game, Flock aided the senior group as best he could, scoring a team-best 20 points. He also had three steals and a blocked shot in the opening half.
Providence slowly chipped into North Harrison’s lead, but the Cougars used a coast-to-coast effort by Book to hold a 35-23 advantage at the half.
Book, a talented freshman, has come into his own as a point guard for North Harrison. His ability to score has helped as well, tallying 18 points Friday.
‘Jake Book, here the second half of the year, he’s not a freshman anymore,’ Jones said. ‘He competes. He doesn’t quit on plays. Tonight, we had five guys out there competing and playing like Jake. But it was our seniors (who were) the ones that won this game.’
The senior group was led by 12 points each by Bishop and Nowak. Phelps chipped in a second-half 3-pointer, while Giles scored two points. Arnold didn’t score but contributed three boards.
Providence used a Dawson Mitchell field goal to start the third quarter to get within 10 points. The Pioneers wouldn’t get any closer until the final few minutes of the final quarter.
Betz was pretty steady for the Pioneers, making four triples, leading to a game-high 21 points.
Outside of Betz, North Harrison contested the many outside shots attempted by Providence.
‘They hit some threes, but we didn’t have too many where they could stand wide open and count to five,’ Jones said. ‘I think we did a good job of contesting.’
The full four-quarter effort was another positive note from Jones.
‘We didn’t let down much,’ the Cougars coach said. ‘We missed a couple of front-ends (of bonuses). Rebounding the basketball, still sometimes we’d sit back and watch and don’t block out, and we don’t always pursue the basketball as good as we should. If that was the one thing we didn’t do well, that was the only thing.’
The energy of the entire team was noticeable. Jones said the bench was into the game.
‘We had everybody engaged and cheering for each other and supporting each other,’ Jones added. ‘To me, that’s as good as anything we could do on the court.’
Due to canceling a game with Paoli, the Cougars picked up a trip to Springs Valley tonight (Wednesday). North Harrison looks to carry the momentum into the Class 3A Corydon Central Sectional. The Cougars will take on Scottsburg on Wednesday, March 4, at 6 p.m.
‘If we get everybody to play like we did tonight, we’ll be all right,’ Jones said. ‘I want to end this year on a positive note because this is a rebuilding season for us. This has got to be a program-changing season. I want these seniors to look back in 10 years and think what they did here at the end was to get our program in the right direction, and I think they did that tonight. We’ve just got to build on it.’
The dunk of Nowak and romp of Providence gave the Cougars, now 6-14, some late-season momentum.
Providence 7 16 12 21 ‘ 56
North Harrison 16 19 14 20 ‘ 69
Providence (7-11) ‘ Betz 21, Heldman 13, Libs 9, Conrad 7, Judd 6.
North Harrison (6-14) ‘ Flock 20, Book 18, Bishop 12, Nowak 12, Phelps 3, Troxell 2, Giles 2.
3-point goals ‘ Providence 5 (Betz 4, Libs); North Harrison 5 (Flock 2, Book, Bishop, Phelps).